During the past fifteen years historians have found British records to be an invaluable source for understanding the origins of the Cold War. According to some scholars these records demonstrate that the Cold War was not a bipolar affair. They show that British officials shared the fears and concerns of Americans about the potential of a Soviet threat. Indeed some analysts believe that the British alerted and prodded the Americans to assume a bolder posture against Soviet/Communist expansionism. But at the same time the British were also aware that their interests did not always coincide with those of the United States and that it was important to try to maintain a degree of autonomy if they were to preserve their Great Power status.
English historians have done a wonderful job illuminating and debating the degree of continuity between the foreign policies of the Conservative government of Winston Churchill and Anthony Eden and those of the Labour Party headed by Clement Attlee and Ernest Bevin. Although tactics changed after Churchill lost the election in July 1945 and although parts of the empire won their independence, there probably was more continuity than one would have expected. But this is a complex problem because recent research has shown that notwithstanding Churchill’s inveterate anti-Communism, he, too, pondered means of accommodating the Kremlin and working out a cooperative relationship. Of course, from his perspective, and from that of his successors, the cooperative relationship had to be on terms that comported with British conceptions of their own vital security interests. At what point this orientation dictated a break with the Kremlin is open to controversy. And so is the degree of Britain’s own responsibility for bringing on the Cold War.
Rather than attributing blame or praise for the actions that led to the breakdown of the great wartime allied coalition, some historians are